Exploring Iceland: Above and below land
In this week’s travel feature Louise-Anne Manasco and Max Pizarro take a look at what Iceland has to offer.
Vatnajokull Glacier, the largest glacier in both Iceland and Europe, displays fascinating ice caves.
Vatnajokull Glacier has a surface area of approximately 8000km² which covers 8% of the Island.
Its thickness is equally impressive as its average is between 400-600m but in certain areas does reach depths of almost 1000m.
Many tour companies provide daily guided tours into the cave. We chose GoEcco Eco Tours where we were picked up by Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and transported in their 4x4 truck through the harsh road conditions, where we were driven right up to the caves entrance.
Like GoEcco Eco Tours describes: “It’s like standing under a frozen blue ocean or in a frozen cathedral surrounded by millions of shades of blue.”
Having formed over thousands of years on top of valleys, mountains and volcanoes, the constant movement and varying seasonal conditions create the ice caves.
Due to their unpredictable nature, there is a need to go with a guide who is able to ensure you are safe beneath the ice as well as being able to give you a detailed insight into the Glacier’s history and the formation of these natural marvels.
These caves are only accessible during the months of December through to March when the temperatures restrict melting and movement in the ice.
Unfortunately due to its confining size along with currently being one of Iceland’s top attractions, the cave does however get quite busy inside and can be slightly restricting.
Located within the Thingvellir National Park, it is the only place on earth where you have the unique opportunity to dive between two tectonic plates (Eurasian and North American).
The clarity and colours of these waters is mesmerizing.
The time we spent in the water was close to 40 minutes, but it felt no longer than five minutes.
From the Silfra Hall through to the Cathedral and in to the Lagoon, the variation in colours, depths, widths and formations within Silfra will no doubt leave you lost for words as well as forgetting the water is only 2°C.
What makes the water so clear? The water that fills the lake originates from Langjokull Glacier, approximately 50km away. With no direct route for melt water to reach Thingvallavatn Lake this water penetrates through the lava rock which acts as a natural filter.
With 50km to travel, a journey taking between 30 to 100 years and constantly being filtered along the way, Silfra is provided with possibly the clearest and most pristine waters on our planet and despite the cold winter temperatures, a light snowfall and waters at 2°C, Dive.is equipped us so well that we forgot it was cold.
Always in search of that additional sense of adventure and excitement, Bessi (driver/owner) from Moonwalker Tours gave us the opportunity to venture out towards Langjokull Glacier.
Icelandic for ‘long glacier’ it is the second largest ice cap in the country at 50km long, 15-20km wide and with an area of 935km².
A late afternoon storm and a few days of heavy snow fall prior to our adventure meant getting onto the glacier proved to be difficult.
Despite being unable to physically get onto the glacier, we were however able to plough around the base in the snow getting stuck a few times.
Able to experience the four seasons in one day, it is impossible for even the most of experienced drivers to predict the conditions and terrain for the day ahead.
A unique experience like no other, Arcanum Glacier Tours took us up onto Myrdalsjokull Glacier, an icecap which covers one of Iceland’s largest volcanos, Katla and is today well over its due date for an eruption.
With a Caldera of 110km², the 250m thick glacier ice sits in the second largest caldera in Iceland. With a surface area of approximately 600km², the glacier’s thickness does vary reaching mindboggling depths of 750m.
Touring the glacier through the thick powdered snow cover was great fun which was topped off with some spectacular views over southern Iceland.
Louise-Anne and Max are a local travel couple who have visited over 50 countries.
To read more about Louise-Anne and Max’s travels check out their blog:
And their Instagram account: @lifeoutofourbackpack